05/26/2017 12:00PM

Sweezey notches first victory as trainer with Lela's Gift

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Churchill Downs/Coady Photography
Lela's Gift wins a maiden race at Churchill on Thursday giving Kent Sweezey his first win as a trainer.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Kent Sweezey said he was inundated with text messages Thursday evening at Churchill Downs immediately after his first victory as a trainer.

“I had more than 100 before we left the test barn,” Sweezey said. “Not only from my buddies and the people I grew up with, but a lot of people I’ve gotten to know in the industry. It was all really cool.”

Lela’s Gift, an 11-1 shot in a $40,000 maiden-claiming route that was transferred from a soggy turf course to the main track, provided Sweezey, 31, with that unforgettable first. A 3-year-old filly by First Samurai, Lela’s Gift was bred by Timber Town, the nom de course of his father and stepmother, Wayne and Cathy Sweezey. The Sweezeys co-own the filly with James and Lela Brown.

The win came with just the third starter for Sweezey since he opened a public stable following lengthy apprenticeships under nationally known trainers Christophe Clement, Eoin Harty, and Jimmy Jerkens.

“My first call after the owners was to Jimmy,” Sweezey said. “It was pretty emotional. He let me have one of his stalls this winter in Florida and has done everything he can to help get me on my way.”

Sweezey, who divided time in his younger days between Louisville and Lexington, currently has 10 horses in training at Keeneland and bought three 2-year-olds at the Fasig-Tipton sale in Timonium, Md., this past week.

“Granted, this first win was just for maiden 40, but it was bigger than that to me,” he said. “Hopefully, it’ll attract some notice and get me a new client or two.”